Memphis might be the home of the blues but in the heat of the sun on a Thursday afternoon in June, it’s heart was bordering on depressing. Beale Street was like an aged hooker the morning after the night before. Tired, worn, and not at all attractive. When I was last in Memphis, we hit Beale Street at night – and it was buzzing. Alive. Happening. Have made a note in the Captain’s log that this is when it’s at its best. I never thought I’d hear myself say this, but neon has its moment.
All that said, if you like Blues, then Beale Street is the place to be… at night! Lined with clubs and bars and restaurants, most with outside stages and patios, it’s a virtual smorgasbord of all that’s good about the genre. You’d be hard pushed not to have a good night out on the town, even if an afternoon in said same place leaves something to be desired.
I had to laugh, though, at the dress code and wondered about the preoccupation with sunglasses…
Apart from Graceland, Sun Studio, and Beale Street, Memphis has one more attraction on its ‘must do’ list – The Peabody Hotel. As hotels go, it’s upmarket and plush, but its attraction is not its decor – it’s the ducks.
Five trained mallard ducks (one male, four females) work in the hotel for three-month stints before retiring. In a tradition that dates back to the 1930s, they’ve made famous the Peabody Duck March. Each day at 11am they descend in the lift from their rooftop penthouse and march along a red carpet into the fountain. They return to their penthouse at 5pm, ably guided by the resident Duck Master. Not a bad number, considering they get to die from old age, enjoy three months of fame, and are the in the spotlight twice a day, daily, for their entire working life (NB: the hotel doesn’t include duck on any of its menus).
So if you’re in the vicinity of Beale Street waiting for the evening to kick off, take yourself by the Peabody and see the ducks in action. It’s stuff like this that makes America so, well, American.